At first glance, 3D printing really does look to be the stuff of magic, with the ability to create solid objects seemingly out of thin air being one of the best examples of technology crossing the boundaries into sorcery. But despite its coolness, the 3D printing is yet to move beyond novelty value for the average consumer, in part due to the limited range of materials that can be printed at an affordable cost.
But as the cost of printers continues to fall, the range of printable materials will increase, and it is most only a matter of years (not decades) before high quality metal parts can be printed by the average business. When that happens, the impact on the logistics industry is likely to be significant, as the old model of shipping and stocking parts gives way to manufacturing on demand.
For the moment however 3D printing is a developing opportunity, with unknown upside for those companies that dive in.
In this feature for CRN magazine I explore the growth in 3D printing from the perspective of the companies that are selling the machinery, and look at the next steps the industry will take on its road to mainstream adoption.